Exploring and Seeing A New View

My husband and I have taken Montgomery County, PA, where we live, up on its challenge. Its trail challenge, that is: visit five county trails, walk or run or bike on them, collect the symbol as evidence of your visit, and if you do this by September 4, you will get an achievement award, a medal.

Well, I don’t really need a medal, but I love the idea of visiting more trails. So I looked up the listing. We think we’re going to try to do all of them, if we can. So far we have collected two, pretty easily, since we visit them in our everyday lives – the Pennypack and the Green Ribbon.

Today we decided to try another one. The weather was hot and sunny, just beautiful, and a good day for walking. We chose the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, about 25 minutes from home, in Bala Cynwyd, PA. We had our reasons for picking this one, and I’ll tell you in a minute.

We drove to Bala (you say it Balla Kinwid, with the ‘a’ like the one in Al, although there’s a Philadelphia pronunciation sometimes heard – Balla Kinwood – and people often shorten it just to ‘Bala’). Our route took us into Philadelphia via the section called Manayunk – a former industrial area along the banks of the Schuylkill. We crossed back into Montgomery County over the Green Lane bridge, drove a short distance, and parked at the Bala Cynwyd Park. A Sunday morning baseball game was in progress:

Ball game small 6-16

Right away we were able to collect our symbol:

Cynwyd trail marker small 6-16

And we got on the trail. It’s the roadbed of an abandoned section of commuter rail, reclaimed as a trail through the efforts of a dedicated volunteer group, grants and awards, and a testament to the interest people have in our area in creating and expanding a bicycle/walking trail network. It begins at the Cynwyd commuter rail station and passes behind houses, parks, and even a tennis club. I also noted the mile markers; they are similar to old ones we see scattered around on major roads, made of marble, with mileage to Center  City Philadelphia carved into them.

The Cynwyd trail is not long, only 2 miles, but it’s well-used by local people, and it connects with a very popular trail, the Schuylkill Trail, that runs between Valley Forge and the city of Philadelphia.

Cynwyd trail small 6-16

And how it makes this connection is why we wanted to go on this walk.

Let me back up a bit. In Manayunk, just before crossing the river, we passed under an enormous railroad bridge, the freight line above us long abandoned. The bridge fell into such disrepair that chunks dropped off it and nets had to be set up to protect those going underneath it. As long as I can remember, that is how things have been.

Not any more. This bridge has now been repaired and repurposed as a bike/pedestrian bridge. An access to the Cynwyd trail was built. It opened not long ago. We’ve been wanting to make the trip over this bridge and today – we did.

We were able to see things from a perspective never before possible for us.

Here’s the bridge itself – it’s called the S bridge because of its curving shape.

S Bridge 6-16

We saw the Green Lane Bridge where we had crossed a short time ago in the car, and the Manayunk Canal.

And we got such a great view of Manayunk. This section of the city was filled with industry and packed with small rowhomes for the workers, all arrayed up the hill. Now industry is gone, but it still has many long-term residents – Poeple who live here stay here. And the area has become popular, especially for younger people and apartment dwellers – there is new construction, we saw, along the river (raised to avert flood damage).

And maybe my favorite view – the river, the expressway, a freight train on a rail line – all snaking along toward downtown. I’ve never had this view of things before and I was really taken by it.Schuykill Expressway 1 6-16 small

So, we walked back to the car. I’ll leave you with these photos of the S bridge from ground level, taken from the Green Lane bridge on our way home. You know, I’ve driven this route many times and seen this view of the intersection – but never having done it with the perspective of knowing what things look like from above, to add to it. There is new territory to be explored and new vistas opened – right under our noses! And all we had to do was – look.

Advertisements

Identification, Name Tag, Return Address, and So On

I’ve been noticing recently how everything seems to have a name and identification information, if you look for it.

Of course it does, you say, of course everything has a name. Well, what I mean is, things actually go a bit further. Look at any object and most likely it will have a manufacturer’s name on it, or the name of the product, and where it was made.

No one is anonymous! I like that, somehow.

I can illustrate this phenomenon with a few photos I took this morning. Pretty ordinary objects, I thought. This sign, for instance, along the rail trail. On the back, you can get the whole family history of this sign, and all the others that were recently erected along the trail (a new section just opened). Think about it. All these objects were manufactured together and traveled down here to the trail in a group, rode out to their sites together and then got settled, one by one. We know this for a fact. It’s comforting, somehow.

Even the miles on this trail know who they are.

Mile marker small small

Here’s one I really like. Along the trail there are numerous abandoned control boxes from when the line was active – service ended in the 1980’s but before that there had been rail traffic for 80+ years.

train box 2a small

This box was manufactured by the Union Switch and Signal Company in Swissvale, PA. It says so right across the body of the box.

train box 2b small

Curious, I looked up the company. Swissvale is in the Pittsburgh area – I’ve been there myself, actually. Pittsburgh is famous for its manufacturing history, so this object is one of millions created in the factories there in the past. US&S was founded by George Westinghouse 130 years ago and the company still exists today as a subsidiary of an Italian company, still making rail traffic control equipment.

This box knows who it is and now I do, too. Somehow I find that very satisfying. I intend to keep paying attention to the world around me for ID info. I like knowing who I’m dealing with in everyday life!

Try to Keep Up

Sometimes things go a little – strange – in the process of art drop-offs. This little tale will illustrate that point nicely, I think. Pay attention, it’s complicated. I’m even a little confused myself, maybe.

It all started about ten days ago. I left a stick lady on a bench along the Green Ribbon Trail, and she was gone in thirty minutes. (You can read about it here.)

The lady.

The lady.

Yesterday, I was on the trail again and I left another lady on a post in the middle of the path.

Today, I went back to the Green Ribbon and I meant to set out two clay figurines. I started off with the two in my little green beltpack, along with the camera and car keys and so on. I left the first one along the trail on this stump.

Next, I passed the location where I left yesterday’s stick lady. To my surprise, she was there, and joined by another object. I stopped and looked it over. The lady from ten days ago was there with this note wrapped around her:

Note 9-4-15 small

My goodness. This has never happened before! I decided to take her with me, and jammed her in the pack. I’d find a new spot for her. But next, I left the second clay figurine on this bench:

I then went up to Bird Hill, where the bird stand is – a popular place to view the hawks. Someone is always there with binoculars, scanning the skies. I left the retrieved stick lady in the pamphlet box at the bird stand. No bird watchers noticed a thing – they were all looking up.

Then I started back toward the car. As I passed the stick lady from yesterday, I decided she looked a little vulnerable perched on the post, so I grabbed her up and then set her on this concrete wall. It’s the upper portion of a disused rail underpass – this section of the trail used to be a rail line (if you’re interested in it, take a look here  and here – my husband and I explored it back in the winter when the landscape was more open).

I finished out my exercise and went back to the car. All done!

Hello, Glad to Meet You

I admit to seeing personalities in all kinds of objects. I will not say inanimate objects, because, well, I am not always sure about that.

If you think I am getting a little too far out here, think about the last time you couldn’t find your keys, and I am pretty sure you were angry at them and felt they hid from you or otherwise concealed themselves.

I think I have made my point?

Here are a couple of personalities I’ve recently become aware of. I’ll start with this train signal tower, now disused, in Lorimer Park on the rail trail.


And how about this tree? It’s in the Pennypack Wilderness next to the creek.

More Secrets Revealed

Remember yesterday’s discovery of the remnants of the rail line, now part of the Green Ribbon Trail in the Fort Washington State Park? I am still excited about it. I love the feeling of following the clues and figuring out something that’s hidden and yet in plain sight.

The entrance to the underpass. It is similar to many that I  have seen all over our regional rail system. Both sides have the date set into the concrete.

The entrance to the underpass. It is similar to many that I have seen all over our regional rail system. Both sides have the date set into the concrete.

Anyway, my husband did some research and found the rail line and its history. It was surprising to me to learn that the line, the Plymouth Branch of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, had its start as horse-powered line in the 1830’s, was extended and enlarged, changed owners, and fell into disuse and oblivion as the need for it changed and declined. Originally a freight line, it connected quarry and lime kilns workings in our area and also carried passengers at different times.

Looking at aerial maps, it’s still possible to see the marks of the line on the land.

But even more surprising to me, I learned that the large pedestrian bridge (mentioned in this Sunshine Project post and pictured below) is set on the old railroad bridge. I looked at some pictures from beneath the bridge (a view I’ve never seen but I will be searching out the next time I go to the park) and it’s clear as day.

Here are pictures from February of the large bridge. People have been crossing the creek at this point for more than one hundred years.

I am so excited to learn all of this information. What a gift to be able to see beyond the surface of these objects and locations I have encountered so often and yet knew so little about! I now know that when I run along this bridge and trail, for about a half mile or so, I am following a road many others have gone on before me and in such different circumstances. It will really give me something to think about.

Do you want to know more? My source for historical information: Abandoned Rails

I Had No Idea

I’m going to tell you a story about how a person can go along a path for years never dreaming of the presence of a secret located literally right beneath her feet.

And of course I am talking about myself. Here is what happened.

This morning my husband and I were walking along the Green Ribbon Trail in the Fort Washington State Park. Before the Sunshine Project, I often dropped off little clay figurine women here and there. Not on a schedule, just as I felt like it. I’m returning to that tradition and I took one with us to set along the trail.

The figurine herself.

The figurine herself.

You may remember that this trail mostly follows the flood plain of the Wissahickon Creek. There is, however, a section of it that was originally the roadbed of a rail line – it cut across the countryside and passed through Flourtown about 2 miles away. There is still a slight rise in Bethlehem Pike, the main road, where the tracks passed over it and were covered up, and you can see the path of the train line (now part of a parking lot).

What’s this got to do with the figurine? Well, I wanted to set her on a little concrete bridge on the trail.

The small bridge on the Green Ribbon Trail as we approached it.

The small bridge on the Green Ribbon Trail as we approached it.

I’ve run this route for 5 or more years, but I never stopped to look over the bridge. Just never bothered.

Today I set the figurine to one side of it.

The figurine is set at the lower right hand corner on the right-hand side of the bridge.

The figurine is set at the lower right hand corner on the right-hand side of the bridge.

Then I looked over. I expected to see a culvert for water runoff. Instead, I saw what looked liked a pedestrian underpass, the kind going under countless train tracks at stations all over our area.

Looking over - here is what I saw. It's not a drainage culvert. That  I could clearly see.

Looking over – here is what I saw. It’s not a drainage culvert. That I could clearly see.

Naturally we had to investigate. So we scrambled down the bank and – here is what we saw. It was an underpass, beautifully designed and solid as a rock, for the now-extinct train line. What a dignified structure it was. We looked around a bit and then climbed back to the trail.

Curious now, we noticed a short way down the trail that the rail roadbed continues. It’s only in this season that it is apparent – any other time the vegetation disguises it. The trail makes a sharp turn away from it and I’ve run by it many times and never ever noticed.

View from the trail. The rail bed continues ahead - you might be able to see the clear space above it between the trees.

View from the trail. The rail bed continues ahead – you might be able to see the clear space above it between the trees.

We worked our along, fighting through thickets of wild raspberry bushes. Once we knew what to look for, the railroad’s path was obvious. It dead-ended at a road that, now that we knew what to look for, had obviously been raised and is now above and covering a section of the line. Walking a little further along, we could see the remnants of the line crossing a nearby golf course – a softened embankment marked its course, with a break in it for a little creek, the train bridge long gone.

We made our way back to the trail. We figured the line might have had something to do with a nearby quarry. But maybe not. We’ll have to look into it. But what is almost magic about this experience is the idea that this structure, what I thought was just an ordinary bridge, really was a gate into the past, wasn’t it?

Happy Saturday.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Categories

Pages